The Legal Service Plan industry in the United States is about 40 years old, but has evolved into something very different than the initial concept. Legal Access Companies is one of the oldest companies in the industry, founded in 1971.
Legal Access Companies legal plan started with a network of five law firms in the Los Angeles area that were contracted with to provide plan benefits to members of credit unions in the same area. The service was made available to the members by mailing out membership cards in their statements. The law firms provided free consultations for these new members. Members called the number on their “Legal Hotline Cards” and the calls came into the small call center and were given the phone number for one of the five firms, depending on location and type of legal matter. This model was followed until 1982.
In 1982, the firm changed its focus and decided to try the idea of a single “consultation center,” where attorneys would be available in the call center to provide a consultation. Robert Heston, Legal Access Plans’ current CEO, was hired to be the first “consultation center” attorney. The inherent flaws in the consultation center quickly became apparent to Mr. Heston. Though he was very knowledgeable in a wide range of areas, having worked at one the largest law firms in the country, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Mr. Heston found that he was unable to give meaningful advice to members outside of the Los Angeles area, having no experience with courts and judges in other parts of California. Even in simple cases, he discovered, knowledge and experience with local courts, laws and judges was crucial to give sound advice to members, particularly on the questions of whether to proceed in taking action on a case, or whether the likely outcome might not justify the money spent in legal fees and client time. He soon recommended to the firm that the idea be abandoned and that they instead focus on building a national network and attracting larger clients.
In 1984, Robert Heston became the CEO of Legal Access Plans. Under his direction the attorney network grew to accommodate new client companies’ employees and members first in California, then in other parts of the country. During this growth phase, Mr. Heston began to develop the stringent requirements and credentialing process used to screen each law firm. The meticulous nature of this screening process has become a cornerstone of Legal Access’ quality service.
By 1987, Legal Access Plans’ customer base had become significant in several parts of the country, and the decision was made to relocate its corporate headquarters to Houston to establish a more central location. Shortly after, Legal Access began to work with its first EAP client, developing a customized approach to address the special needs of employees using the plan. Since that time, Legal Access has continued to work closely with EAPs and Worklife companies creating custom benefit plans, striving for new levels of personal attention and service, and designing systems to address the particular needs of members, counselors and managers.
Legal Access enters the worksite market with the Family Legal Protection Plan and the Family Legal Access Plan.
In 2001, Legal Access began development of its web-based Case Management Interface (CMI). The CMI utilizes decision tree technology, prompting the collection of all the information from the member that Legal Access will require to match the case with the proper legal or financial professional. This system is designed to allow the Specialist to create a complete case profile, without the need for extensive training in the legal and financial fields. By allowing the Specialist to maintain exclusive contact with the member, the CMI provides the means for a seamless member experience, and in some cases, eliminates the need for transferring calls and duplication of intake.
Legal Access Companies enters the insured legal plan market through the purchase of LegalPlans USA. This acquisition allows Legal Access Companies to expand its scope of products and maintain its leadership of the legal plan industry in the United States. Legal Access Companies begins partnership with Virginia Surety Company as the underwriter of the insured products.
Legal Access Companies creates the LegalEASE brand and launches a national marketing effort to employers and brokers.
Legal Access Companies opens new offices that offers great new infrastructure, facilities and room for growth.
Legal Access Companies celebrates 40 Years of serving members and creating peace of mind. Legal Access Companies is also honored by INC as one of the fasted growing companies in the United States.
Legal Access Companies creates a strategic partnership through the LegalEASE brand with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. This partnership allows additional underwriting options and a more robust plan and product offering. Legal Access Companies is also honored by INC as one of the fasted growing companies in the United States a second year in a row.